Anna joined the School of Geography and the Environment in September 2009, jointly appointed by the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies (SIAS). She has a PhD in Social and Cultural Anthropology from Oxford University; an MA in Chinese Studies and a BA in Anthropology, both from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Before taking up her post in Oxford, Anna worked as a lecturer and research fellow in Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Manchester. She also previously held a Departmental Lecturership in the Modern Politics and Society of China at the Institute of Chinese Studies, University of Oxford.
Anna's work embodies a particular synergy between human geography and the study of China and focuses on environmental pollution, development and health in the Chinese countryside. She is a keen supporter of long-term ethnographic field research and since 2004 she has carried out long periods of fieldwork in rural China (Sichuan province and more recently Yunnan, Hunan, Guangdong and Hebei). Her work is concerned with unpacking the naturalisation of perceptions of health and pollution, how they are produced and their political economic overtones (for instance how dependence on a nearby factory might make pollution acceptable). This offers a new type of bottom-up political ecology, which does not assume local communities are passive and isolated victims of development and capitalist oppression, nor that they are inherently 'nature-friendly' but focuses on the agency of farmers or workers in polluting industries, potential conflicts of interests and attitudes to 'clean nature' versus 'pollution'.
Anna strongly believes in interdisciplinarity and in its value for understanding environmental health problems. For this reason, she was involved between 2007 and 2013 with the SSRC's China Environment and Health Initiative (CEHI) and the Forum on Health, Environment and Development (FORHEAD), which are designed to bring together natural and social scientists working on these issues. As part of this initiative, she participated in a project on 'citizens' perceptions of rural industrial pollution and its effects on health', which included scholars from legal and political science (Benjamin Van Rooij and Wang Qiliang) and sociology (Wu Yunmei) and was led by public health specialist (Zhang Yiyun) at the Chinese NGO, the Yunnan Health and Development Research Association (YHDRA). She has also been part of an interdisciplinary research project on a lead-zinc mining town. The project was supported by FORHEAD and core members included CEHIs director Jennifer Holdaway; Li Yonghua, Ran Shenhong, Wang Wuyi, Yang Linsheng and Zheng Rui at the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Fang Jing at the Kunming Medical University and Lu Jixia at China's Agricultural University. Anna has closely reviewed work by Ajiang Chen and his research team (Hohai University) on "cancer villages" in order to provide a context to the research projects she participated in on pollution and health. Finally, Anna collaborated with Li Liping at Shantou University and with research fellows at Oxford Peter Wynn Kirby and Yvan Schulz to examine e-waste in China and Japan, with a focus on local residents' understandings of risk, pollution and circular economy. An additional related project on rural-urban coalitions and resistance to waste incineration (in collaboration with Thomas Johnson and Lu Jixia) also feeds into the wider theme of living with pollution.
This collaboration between disciplines and with members of China's civil society fosters a deep understanding of the mechanisms by which environmental health governance works and why it may fail to do so. This research is of vital importance to policy makers, NGOs and the broader community, and Anna is strongly committed to disseminating such work beyond academia through widening participation initiatives, public talks and research collaborations.
Anna's current research covers a diverse range of topics, including: how socio-politically situated perceptions of development and consumerism intersect with attitudes to health and pollution in the Chinese countryside; lay cancer aetiologies; home care for illness and attitudes to formal healthcare provision; how coexisting moral economies of subsistence and the market are articulated in everyday life; experiences of urbanisation and land loss; international flows of e-waste; resistance to waste incineration; the rise of citizen science in rural China; the production and contestation of knowledge around pollution; environmental health activism and the formation of 'environmental health subjects.'
Anna's first monograph Fighting for Breath: Living Morally and Dying of Cancer in a Chinese Village is based on a total of 18 months of fieldwork in rural north-east Sichuan province starting in 2004. It is the first book-length ethnography to offer a bottom-up account of how families strive to make sense of cancer and care for sufferers in contemporary rural China. It explores lay perceptions of illness causality and everyday practices of care as prisms to understand how relationships with family members, locality and the state are reproduced or contested since the socio-economic reforms. Her second monograph, Resigned Activism: Living with Pollution in Rural China (2017, MIT Press) draws on fieldwork in three sites undertaken in collaboration with colleagues detailed above and on a close analysis of Ajiang Chen's work on 'cancer villages' to examine the complex spectrum of local responses to pollution. Anna also edited a special collection for The China Quarterly on 'Dying for Development: Pollution, Illness and the Limits of Citizens' Agency in China' (2013) and co-edited a special section of the journal AREA on 'Peering Through Loopholes, Tracing Conversions: Remapping the Transborder Trade in Electronic Waste' (2015, with Peter Wynn Kirby). Her research has appeared in Social Anthropology, The China Quarterly, The China Journal, The Journal of Contemporary China, Evidence and Policy, The Pace Environmental Law Review, World Development, Positions, and AREA.
Since 2006, her interests in cancer and in the mutual relationship between health, human activity and environment have led Anna to focus more closely on pollution in rural China, and she has organised and taken part in several interdisciplinary workshops on these topics. In 2012 Anna was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship to fund a year of research and work on her second monograph. In 2014 she spent a month at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center continuing work on the book. In 2013, Anna was awarded Philip Leverhulme Prize in Geography which has supported her research on pollution, health and activism in rural China and the development of new projects. She is director of a Leverhulme Trust Project on 'Circuits of Waste and Value: Making E-waste Subjects in China and Japan' (£322,557) which built on previous research with Peter Wynn Kirby funded by a John Fell Award Award and in collaboration with Prof Li Liping at Shantou University. She was also co-investigator (with Thomas Johnson and Jixia Lu) on the project 'Coalitions of the "weak": fighting pollution at China's rural-urban interface', funded by Hong Kong Research Grants Council (HK$457,168). Her past research was supported by the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Inter-University China Centre (phase 1 and 2) and the Social Science Research Council.
Selected Research Projects
Selected grants and prizes
- 2015-2019 - Circuits of Waste and Value: Making E-waste Subjects in China and Japan. Leverhulme Trust Project Grant RPG-2014-224 (£322,557)
- 2014-2017 - (Co-Investigator with Thomas Johnson and Jixia Lu) Coalitions of the "weak": fighting pollution at China's rural-urban interface. Hong Kong Research Grants Council (HK$457,168)
- 2014 - Bellagio Center Rockefeller Academic Writing Residency
- 2013 - Winner of Philip Leverhulme Prize in Geography (£70,000)
- 2012-2013 - Urban mining, toxic payload: transnational circuits of e-waste between Japan and China. John Fell OUP research fund (Oxford University) (£86,793)
- 2012-2014 - 'Environmental Cultures' Network, British-Interuniversity China Centre, Network Leader funded by AHRC, ESRC and HEFCE (£10,900)
- 2012-13 - Living with Pollution in China: and Ethnographic Perspective, Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (RF-2012-260) (£43,342)
- 2010-12 - Making Environmental Health Subjects in Contemporary Rural China: Contested Illnesses, Pollution and the "Good Life", British Academy, SG091048 (£7,480)
- 2004-05 - Study Abroad Studentship, The Leverhulme Trust, SAS/6/SAS/2004/0055 (£13,500 per annum)
- 2003-06 - AHRB Postgraduate Award, Doctoral Competition
- 2002-03 - AHRB Postgraduate Award, Masters Competition
Anna has taught on:
- 'Economy and Transformation', Geography Prelims course
- 'Nature and Society', MSc Nature, Society and Environmental Governance,
- 'The socio-political Nature of Water', MSc Water Science, Policy and Management
- 'The Study of Modern China', MSc Modern Chinese Studies
- 'Health, Environment and Development', elective course taught with Public Health and Development Studies
- China's Environment and Environmental Movements, MSc elective for SoGE and SIAS students
Current Graduate Research Students
Global Environmental (in)Activism: An Ethnography of Pollution, Illness and Community Resistance in Italy and Taiwan
At the margins of a ‘development darling’: intersections between civil society, governance, and development in Karen State, Myanmar
Recent Graduate Research Students (since 2006)
Completed DPhil in 2019
Digesting industrialisation: social changes in two industrialised villages in east China
Completed DPhil in 2018
Environmental activism, non-governmental organisations and new generation of civil society in Russia and China
Completed DPhil in 2017
Fluid capitalism at the bottom of the pyramid: a study of the off-grid solar power market in Uttar Pradesh, India
Completed DPhil in 2017
Food environments in Islamabad, Pakistan
|Carlo Inverardi Ferri|
Completed DPhil in 2016
Invisible spaces: variegated geographies of waste in China
Completed DPhil in 2016
The emergence of low carbon development in China and India: energy efficiency as a lens
|Charlotte von Mangoldt|
Completed DPhil in 2016
Student environmentalism in Beijing, China
|Haiyan (Helen) Yu|
Completed DPhil in 2015
Water, Power and IWRM (Integrated Water Resources Management) - a comparative study of village water governance in arid and semi-arid northwest China
|Loretta Ieng Tak Lou|
Completed DPhil in 2016
(Anthropology, University of Oxford)
|Healing Nature: Green living and the politics of hope in Hong Kong.|
|Pollution and the Press: Investigating eco-governmentality in contemporary China.|
- Johnson, T., Lora-Wainwright, A. and Lu, J. (2018) The quest for environmental justice in China: citizen participation and the rural–urban network against Panguanying’s waste incinerator. Sustainability Science.
- Kirby, P.W. and Lora-Wainwright, A. (2015) Exporting harm, scavenging value: transnational circuits of e-waste between Japan, China and beyond. Area, 47(1): 40-47.
- Kirby, P.W. and Lora-Wainwright, A. (2015) Material Geographies and Marginal Conversions: Exploring the Transborder E-waste Trade. Area, 47(1): 4-6.
- Yu, H.H., Edmunds, M., Lora-Wainwright, A. and Thomas, D. (2015) Governance of the irrigation commons under integrated water resources management – A comparative study in contemporary rural China. Environmental Science and Policy, 55(1): 65-74.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2014) Grassroots perspectives on relocation: threats and opportunities. Positions: Asia Critique, 22(3): 661-689.
- Lu, J. and Lora-Wainwright, A. (2014) Historicizing sustainable livelihoods: a pathways approach to lead mining in rural central China. World Development, 62: 189-200.
- Yu, H., Edmunds, M., Lora-Wainwright, A. and Thomas, D. (2014) From principles to localized implementation: villagers' experiences of IWRM in the Shiyang River basin, Northwest China. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 30(3): 588-604.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2013) Plural forms of evidence and uncertainty in environmental health: a comparison of two Chinese cases. Evidence and Policy, 9(1): 49-64.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2013) The inadequate life: rural industrial pollution and lay epidemiology in China. The China Quarterly, 214: 302-320.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2012) Rural China in ruins: the rush to urbanize China's countryside is opening a moral battleground. Anthropology Today, 28(4): 8-13.
- Lora-Wainwright, A., Zhang, Y., Wu, Y. and Van Rooij, B. (2012) Learning to live with pollution: the making of environmental subjects in a Chinese industrialized village. The China Journal, 68(July 2012): 106-124.
- van Rooij, B., Lora-Wainwright, A., Wu, Y. and Zhang, Y. (2012) The compensation trap: the limits of community based regulation of pollution in China. PACE Environmental Law Review, 29(3): 701-745.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2010) An anthropology of 'cancer villages': villagers' perspectives and the politics of responsibility. Journal of Contemporary China, 19(63): 77-99.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2009) Of farming chemicals and cancer deaths: The politics of health in contemporary rural China. Social Anthropology, 17(1): 56-73.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2007) Social and cultural understandings of oesophagus and stomach cancer in rural Sichuan. Asian and African Studies XII: 1 (Special Issue: Selected Papers from The XVI Biennial Conference of the European Association of Chinese Studies).
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2005) Valorising local resources: barefoot doctors and bone manipulation in rural Langzhong, Sichuan province, PRC. Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, 1(2): 470-489.
Special / Edited Collections
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2018) Environmental and social change in rural China. In, Latham, K. (ed.) Routledge Handbook of Chinese Culture and Society. Routledge, London. ISBN: 978-0-415-83058-4.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2016) The trouble of connection: e-waste in China between state regulation, development regimes and global capitalism. In, Harper, K., Vaccaro, I. and Seth Murray, D. (eds.) The Anthropology of Postindustrialism: Ethnographies of Disconnection. Routledge, New York. pp. 113-131. ISBN: 9781138943643.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. and Chen, A. (2016) China's cancer villages: contested evidence and the politics of pollution. Chapter 19 in, Singer, M. (ed.) A Companion to the Anthropology of Environmental Health. New York: Wiley. pp. 396-416. ISBN: 978-1-118-78699-4.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2015) Grassroots reactions to relocation: the diffusion of compensation strategies. In, Teets, J.C. and Hurst, W. (eds.) Local Governance Innovation in China: Experimentation, Diffusion and Defiance. Routledge, New York. ISBN: 978-0-415-74785-1.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2015) The moral economy of cancer in rural China. In, Burke, N., Mathews, H. and Kapriani, E. (eds.) Anthropologies of Cancer in Transnational Worlds. Routledge, New York. ISBN: 978-1-13-877693-7.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2014) Doomed to suffer in silence? Living with pollution in industrialised rural China. In, Munster, U., Satsuka, S. and Cederlof, G. (eds.) Asian Environments: Connections across Borders, Landscapes and Times. RCC Perspectives, 2014(3). pp. 79-86.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2011) "If you can eat and walk you do not go to hospital" Farmers' attitudes to healthcare in contemporary China. In, B. Carrillo and J. Duckett (eds.) China’s Changing Welfare Mix: Local Perspectives. London: Routledge. Selected essays from the Provincial China Workshop 2008, Tianjin University.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2009) Fatness and well-being: bodies and the generation gap in contemporary China. In, Turner, B.S. and Yangwen, Z. (eds.) The Body in Asia. Berghahn Books. 240 pp. ISBN: 978-1-84545-550-7.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2014) Review of Chinese Research Perspectives on the Environment (Volume 3): Public Action and Government Accountability. The China Quarterly.Jianqiang Liu (ed.). 250-251.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2011) Review of Eating Spring Rice: the Cultural Politics of AIDS in Southwest China, by Sandra Teresa Hyde. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 17(3): 656-657.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2010) Review of The Struggle for Sustainability in Rural China, by Bryan Tilt (2010). The China Journal, 64: 243-245.
- Lora-Wainwright, A. (2006) Review of Bodies of Difference. Experienced of Disability and Institutional Advocacy in the Making of Modern China, by Matthew Kohrman (2005). The China Journal, 55: 179-181.
Quoted in the media
- Quoted in Gallo, William. 2015 "China to put key climate change policy into action", Voice of America, 25 September 2015.
- Quoted in Bougon, François "Les Chinois aspirent à l'air pur", Le Monde, 3 September 2015.
- Quoted by Deutsche Welle People power pushes governments to tackle pollution", 15 July 2014.
- Quoted in Rowe, Mark. 2014."The Green Dragon Awakens", Geographical, 1 June 2014.
- Quoted in "A Seasoned Perspective", China Daily, piece on Isabel Crook, May 13, 2014.
- Interviewed by CCTV China24 on paraxylene, 10 April 2014 'Observing China Under Pollution', interview published in Urban China April 2014, issue 64, pp. 128-9 (in Chinese).
- Interviewed by CCTV World Insight program on "China's smog problem", March, 3, 2014.
- Radio interview with Warren Olney on the topic of China and the environment, 'On The Point', KCRW radio, California, 14 August 2013.
- Interviewed for a feature on China's pollution for TV program The Third Angle, aired by the gbtimes.com, 1 August 2012.
- Quote by Poulden, Gervase "China exports its environmental problems as consumer culture books", The Ecologist, 6 September 2011.
- Q&A with Fred Pearce on my book Resigned Activism: Living with Pollution in Rural China, October 31, 2017. Republished in Chinese in the Financial Times
- How the rich escape the burden of pollution in China and the US, Chinadialogue, April 4, 2014.
- Chinese state and citizens must battle airpocalypse together, The Conversation, March 6, 2014, reposted in Chinadialogue.
- China's cancer villages are victims of rural-urban inequality, Chinadialogue (25 June 2013). A longer version is published as Social and environmental injustice in rural China, Politics in Spires, OxOn China (12 June 2013).
- A Village Perspective of Rural Healthcare in China. China Environment Forum, 2008.